For book/ebook authors, publishers, & self-publishers
What you need to know
I've spent the last 20 years working for a community newspaper in the NW suburbs of Illinois. I can only tell you what I know from my own experiences.
1) How do you get your foot in the door?
For one, know when the news staff is overwhelmed with news or digging for it. Summer time can be one of the slowest times of the year because school is out and people are vacation. Step one call, the Lifestyle, Social or Entertainment editor. Once. If you hound them you won't get through to them. Ask the receptionist when they work and call. Then introduce yourself: state you're a local author, what genre you write, and what you do 9-5. Don't send your book if they don't ask for it or review books. That's a waste of your money. Do have a press kit ready to snail or email them: a press release, a tear sheet from another article, a book list, list of appearances, bio. If you have a library appearance slated in the area, invite them or ask if it is at all possible to have a feature article written. Know that not all news staff leaves the office. Some don't even have time to go to the bathroom. They can easily work 8-12 hours a day if covering late night meetings. If they're too busy, tell them to email the questions to you and you'll reply immediately. This is the fastest and easiest way to do an interview. I've done it and it works. Be prepared to email them a professional or candid author photo and your book covers. Give them your website or blog URL.
2) Do they have to interview you?
No, you're not advertising. Basically, you're asking for free advertising. You might get their attention by placing a one column ad in their paper. I created Book Corner so that authors could get exposure in the paper I work for.
3) What should you include if you just send out a press release?
Your contact info, who you are, what you've written, where you'll be doing booksignings for the month. Make sure you mail it 2-3 weeks before the event. Do not write a flowery press release and brag that you're an award winning author unless you've got the award to prove it. Type with the Times font, 12 point, double spaced.
4) Should I follow up?
Call them once and once only. Ask them to email if they're interested in writing a feature, if not move on. Also, don't bad mouth the staff. Remember, newspaper staff networks with other newspaper staff. The word can easily get around.
Hope this helps,